Thirty Day Anime Challenge: Days 13 to 17

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Earlier this month I was reading Matt Doyle’s excellent blog. He had just completed a Thirty Day Video Game Challenge. That reminded me that I had yet to finish the anime challenge I started way back in July. Oops! I better make some long overdue progress on that by answering a few more questions today. For those of you who only subscribe to this site for reviews, and therefore have no interest in this series, I recommend that you check out these reviews penned by other bloggers instead…

Anime: Sword Art Online (Season Two)
Manga: Black Butler
Movie: Aquaman
Video Game: Pokemon Red/Blue

DAY 13: CHARACTER I AM MOST SIMILAR TO

I pretty much resemble any anime character who is a stereotypical geek. Perhaps you could compare me to a male version of Moriko Morioka, as I stay indoors all day, am terrible with face to face interactions and often play characters of the opposite sex in video games. I once asked a friend what animated personality I remind them of. They said Master Roshi, as I am a bald headed pervert. Can’t argue with that logic!

DAY 14: ANIME THAT NEVER GETS OLD NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES I REWATCH IT

These days I don’t have enough free time to re-watch shows. Just keeping up with the current season’s anime (and older stuff that I want to check out) is a big enough struggle. Many moons ago however, when I limited my anime viewing to DVDs, I wasn’t averse to watching a series multiple times. One particular box-set that got a lot of mileage was Full Metal Alchemist. No matter how many times I watch FMA it never gets old.

DAY 15: FAVORITE ANIMAL SIDEKICK, PET OR SUMMON

I had to rack my brain to come up with an answer for this one. Generally I am not a fan of mascot characters. You can blame eighties cartoons for that. Back when I was a kid, the cartoons I watched often featured comic relief mascots who were super annoying. Anime critters aren’t all bad though. I recently had fun traveling with Pikachu in Pokemon Let’s Go for example. After much thought I am going to pick Taromaru, the pup from School-Live. He’s very cute and played a big role in the show’s emotional finale.

DAY 16: ANIME WITH THE BEST ANIMATION

There were many contenders for this category. Garden of Words has some exceptional visuals, as does anything that has Studio Ghibli’s name attached to it. The last Madoka movie is also worth mentioning, due to a particularly impressive fight sequence. All those nominations however have the benefit of a motion picture budget backing them up. With that in mind my vote goes to Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works. Who knew that a TV production could look so amazing? One could say that Ufotable’s artists brought their A-game to the (ufo)table in that series.

DAY 17: FAVORITE SUPPORTING MALE CHARACTER

I had to think long and hard for this one. Nothing immediately came to mind. Most of my favourite male characters, from the world of anime, are protagonists. Although I suspect a better answer will come to me later, I’m going to go with Akio Furukawa from Clannad. His childish antics make me laugh, as do the scenes were he gives Tomoya a hard time. Akio isn’t a one note comedic character though. During tough times he acts as a second father to Tomoya and is selfless when it comes to his family. This is evidenced by the reveal that he abandoned a career in acting in order to support his daughter. Instead of the stage he now works as a baker. The family business depends on him because his wife hasn’t got a clue when it comes to recipes. Octopus tentacles and bread do not make for a tasty combo.

 

Review of Pokémon Let’s Go

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I wasn’t always a big fan of Pokemon. Back when the original game came out in Europe I was close to twenty years of age. Based off clips I had seen, of the wholesome cartoon series, I dismissed Pokemon as being something that was just for kids. Twelve months later Final Fantasy IX awakened my passion for RPGs. Eager to try other titles in the genre, I decided to be less close-minded and give Pokemon Blue a chance. Turns out that the series, developed by Game Freak, can be enjoyed by youngsters and adults alike. At the time of writing I am fast approaching forty and have just beaten the twenty three hour story mode of Pokemon Let’s Go.

OVERVIEW

One of the reasons I was looking forward to this release is because it is set in the Kanto region – the same setting as the above mentioned Pokemon Blue. When it comes to Pokemon, just like Transformers, I am most familiar with generation one. It was a simpler time, when completing a Pokedex only required that you catch 151 critters. These days I hear that the species list of Pokemon surpasses over eight hundred! Some of the new Pokemon look cool, but others suffer from uninspired designs. When a developer starts to create Pokemon that resemble ice cream cones and key chains you know they are running low on ideas.

Technically speaking Let’s Go is a remake of Pokemon Yellow. Were the two differ is the manner in which you catch Pokemon. Yellow had players capturing Pokemon by weakening them first in combat. Let’s Go adopts a simpler approach, inspired by the mobile game it is named after. Catching a Pokemon is just like nabbing a woman. You throw your balls at them and hope they don’t run away. I personally liked the new system, as it spared me from suffering the frustration of accidentally killing Pokemon I was trying to recruit. My opinion would be different though, were I not someone who plays handheld mode exclusively. Switch owners who play docked on the TV will have to catch Pokemon with fiddly motion controls, rather than buttons. Nintendo thinks it is cute to simulate the action of hurling a Pokeball. If you prefer a traditional controller or are disabled tough luck.

GOT TO CATCH EM ALL

What makes capturing Pokemon in Let’s Go a blast is that you can see the buggers roaming through the bushes (like a creepy stalker). Gone are the days of random encounters. Yay! I no longer have the patience to battle Zubats every time I take a step forward. Should you spot a Pokemon that you want to add to your collection just walk up to them. If you have no desire to tangle with yet another Rattata, give them a wide berth. The option of targeting Pokemon by sight allows trainers to build up combos. Catching several Pokemon, of the same type, in a row rewards you with increased odds of finding rare Pokemon and Shinies (mutant Pokemon who have been born with a different pigmentation). Some Twitch channels make an income by streaming hunts for Shinies, which amounts to trapping the same Pokemon, over and over, for hours at a time. Man, I think I am in the wrong line of work.

For those of you worrying that Pokemon Let’s Go only involves throwing spheres at woodland creatures fear not. Turn based battles still exist in this game. In order to finish the story players need to defeat eight gym leaders, the Elite Four and any other trainers/children/fishermen who get in your way. Winning a Pokemon duel rewards you with cash and experience. When a Pokemon accumulates enough experience they level up, which may cause them to unlock new abilities or evolve into a new form. Another way of powering up your team is to exchange duplicate Pokemon for stat boosting candy. Yes, that is right. Candy makes you stronger. Those doctors who warned you that sweets will rot your teeth are liars. Devour confectionery and one day you too shall bulk up like The Rock.

VERDICT

My rating for Pokemon Let’s Go is a four out of five. Some hardcore fans won’t approve of how Let’s Go dumbs things down, by removing features found in other modern Pokemon titles. For a casual player, such as myself, the game is however fun. Many people have commented that Let’s Go is a tad easy, which I would have to agree. That said, I did lose a few matches during the course of my adventure. My losses were mostly due to my terrible sense of direction, rather than the opponents being tough. Somehow I ended up facing the Sixth Gym Leader, before beating the fourth and fifth one, as I took a detour leading to the wrong town. Oops! Perhaps I can also blame the losses on buying the Pikachu edition? I hear that the Eevee version is a bit easier, as the adorable pup has a better move set. As a superhero fan I couldn’t resist going on a journey with Pikachu though. He sounds a lot like Deadpool after all.

Review of Teeny Titans

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Unlike most of the planet, I have thus far refrained from dabbling in Pokémon Go. Is it because I fear joining the casualty list of players who have been struck by traffic, walked off cliffs or been assaulted by muggers masquerading as Team Rocket? Nah, I just don’t own a mobile – and even if I did there’s the small matter of me being an antisocial hermit who detests venturing outdoors. What I have been playing instead is Teeny Titans, a Pokémon clone based on the animated show some of you may have watched on Cartoon Network. Screw Pikachu and Jigglypuff – as a superhero fan I’d rather battle with figurines modelled after famous DC comic book characters.

OVERVIEW

Set in the Teen Titans Go universe, this Grumpyface Studios release sees players guide Robin on his quest to become the Teeny Titans world champion. What’s that mam? A hoodlum is robbing you? Sorry, Batman’s apprentice can’t save you today because he has abandoned crime fighting in favour of collecting Amiibo knockoffs. Needless to say, unlike a brooding Warner Bros superhero flick, this game doesn’t take itself too seriously. As an example, one of the more ridiculous missions on offer has Robin disguising himself as a pooch so he can participate in a Teeny Titans contest being held at a pet shop. Holy canine cosplay Batman! I never knew that Dick Grayson was a furry.

Battles in Teeny Titans are fought using a team of three characters. At the start of a match you summon one hero onto the field, leaving the other two in reserve. At any time it’s possible to swap your active fighter with a substitute – be it to save them from harm or to capitalize on another teammate’s abilities. To unleash attacks players need to wait until the action bar has filled up sufficiently. Each Titan has three moves at their disposal, with mightier attacks requiring a bigger chunk of the bar to activate. Encounters are both fast paced and strategic, although most opponents aren’t overly tough as the enemy AI is only slightly smarter than the Ghostbusters’ male receptionist.

VERDICT

My rating for Teeny Titans is a four out of five. I can highly recommend this title to iOS owners who like superheroes or Pokémon in general. The combat system is fun, the dialogue is humorous and the colourful character designs are pleasing to the eye. Another plus is that it only costs a couple of quid to download the complete game off the Apps Store. That’s very generous when compared to other titles, which claim to be free only to then tempt players with costly micro-transactions. No, I’d rather not spend all my life savings on hundreds of Poké Balls Nintendo. Why should I? You’ll just squander the cash on censoring western releases rather than paying for stable servers.

My only real gripe with Teeny Titans would have to be with its interface. Traversing the map can be a chore at times, due to its zoomed in perspective and fiddly touchscreen controls. I also wish that the main story were a bit longer, as the omission of a multiplayer mode does hurt the title’s shelf life. On the plus side there are optional quests to tackle and seventy Titans to collect, which should keep completionists occupied for a while. Now that I have finished the game I must ponder what to play next. Perhaps I should succumb to peer pressure and check out Pokémon Go after all? I loathe going outside, but then again I could mimic those chaps who play Go by hooking up their phone to a remote control drone. Those flying contraptions evidently can do more than just spy on Middle Eastern nations.

Review of Pokemon X (3DS)

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Pokémon X is the latest game from the massively popular Pokémon franchise, which started life in 1996 under the title Pocket Monsters (not to be confused with Monsters in my Pocket… anyone remember those things?) As the first proper Pokémon game to be released on the 3DS the series has taken the opportunity to receive a visual facelift, which has seen the brand’s traditional 2D look transition into the realm of three dimensions. Pokémon trainers shouldn’t worry however because aside from the graphical tweaks this latest instalment keeps the core gameplay they love unchanged in what could be the finest Pokémon game to date.

The game sees players take control of the son/daughter of a famous Pokémon racer who has been enlisted by a scientist to help them with their Pokémon research. Gripes, budget cuts must be bad if the scientific community is now resorting to child labour. As in other Pokémon games the player is tasked with travelling across the land cataloguing any Pokémon they come across on their Pokedex. As a fledgling Pokémon trainer you’ll also be expected to challenge gym leaders to Pokémon matches in order to earn sufficient badges to face the reigning Pokémon champion for their title.

At its core Pokémon is a role-playing game that focuses on turn based combat. When coming across a wild Pokémon or rival trainer players enter into battle with a team of up to six critters. Combat strategy focuses on selecting the right Pokémon to counter the opponent you are facing. As an example, if you are facing a grass type Pokémon it would be advisable to summon a Pokémon with fire based attacks as these deal extra damage to their grassy brethren. Winning matches earns your Pokémon experience points and once they accumulate sufficient xp they will level up – making them stronger and in some cases allowing them to evolve into a more powerful (but generally less cute looking) form.

In terms of levelling up teams Pokémon X must be one of the easiest games in the entire series. Early on in the story you are bestowed with an Exp Share item that gives your entire team a portion of the experience whenever you win a battle. This is a huge help as in the past only Pokémon participating in combat would earn xp. This would often result in lopsided teams were trainers would focus on one overly powerful Pokémon with weaklings filling up the remaining five spots. It’s such a joy being able to play through the adventure with a balanced party without having to resort to mind numbing grinding (or forcing the weakling Pokémon to consume steroids.)

As mentioned above, Pokémon X’s most distinguishing feature would have to be its new graphical style. Although the visuals don’t push the 3DS to its limits, X is a significant improvement over the older Pokémon games. For the most part the action is presented using a bird’s eye view (akin to the classic Zelda games) but in certain areas the camera will switch to a third person vantage point to give a closer view on proceedings. In combat Pokémon are now brought to life thanks to animated 3D models that resemble what you would find in the console Pokémon Coliseum games. The flashier aesthetics make the action sequences much more satisfying. I can now revel in delight as I spy the anguished expressions of female Pokémon getting abused by a Tentacruel.

Even though most of the action takes place on the top screen the bottom display is by no means neglected. Using the stylus you can play mini-games with your captured Pokémon, which increases their affection and stats. Players taking advantage of the online features will also be able to use the touch screen to challenge trainers from across the globe to matches, bestow them with temporary Opower bonuses and send out messages. Best of all being connected to the net permits you to exchange Pokémon with other people or if you are feeling brave you can try the Wonder Trade facility, were you pick a Pokémon to trade with a randomly selected person. If you are fortunate you may find a generous person giving away a rare Pokémon… although more often than not you’ll come across jerks offloading worthless level three Bunnelbys.

So we reach the end of the review and it is time for me to give out a rating. All things considered I have no hesitation awarding Pokémon X a full five stars. Even if it isn’t a radical departure from the older games the new 3D visuals succeed in freshening up a franchise that was starting to feel a tad stale. Even though the story can be rushed through in under twenty hours there’s plenty of post game content to justify coughing up the full retail asking price. Completing the Pokedex, breeding Pokémon with perfect stats and hunting down the Legendries alone will give you a hundred hours worth of enjoyment. My only real complaint is that the design of the newer Pokémon is a little lacklustre. One of them looks like a key ring for goodness sake. I haven’t caught one of those yet. I wonder were they roam? Probably behind the sofa… that’s where my missing keys normally end up.